Functional Fundamentals First

I won’t lie, it upsets me to the bone seeing fitness people pushing for heavier loads and higher volumes, to build muscle, burn fat, look the best, be the fastest, be the strongest, the biggest, etc. and their breathing is not only poor, but quite often nonexistent🤣😠. As the singer that I am, this “let me puff out my chest so that I look like I’m breathing” offends my soul. Not only that, but their coordination and balance were forgotten sometime between their conception day and their birthday (i.e. never addressed). Same as young singers wanting to hit the high notes without any notion of breathing or impostation. In truth they are getting weaker, because they are building their body like a house of cards, and it comes a point when the body can’t sustain that, leading to injuries and the dreadful vocal nodes. Sacrificing a solid foundation for a short-lived thrill. It’s like getting married to a sex god that gives you amazing sex, but nothing else (and yes, you need more than sex). In the long run, you’ll end up fucked up in all senses. Ahh…. perception, always the devil.

Most trainers will train a specific area and build specific muscles to express a fitness trait – such as strength, power, etc – and it will happen, because the body adapts. But without mastering any move without any load at all first, those traits created by overdeveloping muscles won’t be sustained for very long because the underdeveloped surrounding muscles, joints and ligaments will fail to support them. That’s why we see people with massive pecs, traps and arms but very weak feet, abnormally spread apart shoulder blades and fragile lower backs. And let’s not talk about legs, specially men, who seem to have sworn their lives to fit into latex pencil skirts or very narrow canoes🤣.

In my opinion, this is how you should go about:

  1. Start with functional movements that work the basics: squat, hinge, push, pull, carry and rotate. Practise in all planes and ranges of motion. Just with your bodyweight. Develop your body awareness, proprioception, breathing, relaxation (tension-distension), coordination, balance and posture first, from the inside out. Learn to feel without looking (close your eyes and ears?). It’s something that Music and Singing taught me from the very beginning. If it doesn’t feel right, no matter how good it looks or sounds – it will be wrong somewhere.
  2. Then, go for functional performance, adding variables such as resistance, speed, more power, etc.
  3. Finally, go for skill, which is the combination of all those movements to perform a specific task such as throwing, kicking, swinging, punching, jumping, etc.

As an additional very important point I’d like to point out the 3 areas of dysfunction that seem more prone to injury due to the lack of functional training or absolute neglect of them. These are, in my view:

  • Shoulder blades / Scapular stabilizers
  • Hips / Glutes
  • Feet/Calves/Shins

These parts of the body absorb force (like every other muscle, but these in particular a bit more), and if they are weak, that force travels to the ligaments, joints, discs, meniscus, fascia, and bone. This is where the basis of all injuries lies: the inability to absorb force. I am gradually learning how to address the dysfunction on these parts, but until I don’t have the whole picture I will say these two tips:

  • Learn – and master – diaphragmatic breathing exercises (a few to get you started here, here and here).
  • Whenever possible, go shoeless. Believe it or not, that also goes for running (“Effects of 12 weeks of barefoot running”, Journal of Sport and Health Science, Oct 2016). Or if wearing footwear, make that flat and wide.

Just that for today 🙂

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